​By Philip Reed

On April 7, High Voltage Electrician Randy Hammit saw the fruits of his labors take flight. Hammit, a major in the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, participated in an important flight orientation event that he helped to organize.

The event saw airplanes from across Arizona and New Mexico converging in Page, Arizona, to give orientation flights to cadets from a new Civil Air Patrol squadron—the only one on the Navajo Nation.

The new squadron, named the Code Talker Bahe Ketchum Composite Squadron after one of the famous Code Talkers of World War II, is based in Shonto, Arizona.

The event was attended by Civil Air Patrol National Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, Arizona Wing Commander Col. Martha Morris, 2nd Lt. Frederick Fout and 2nd Lt. Gerlie Fout. It was originally planned to take place in February, but was postponed due to high winds.

Undaunted and aware of the value of the training, Hammit and the rest of the team rescheduled it for April. 

Hammit joined the U.S. Air Force in 1984 as a powerline specialist, and he served for 22 and a half years. He also worked for the Department of Defense, and earned his private pilot certificate in 2013. He started his career with WAPA in 2016.

This orientation event was the culmination of many months of planning and coordination but, now that it’s over, Hammit isn’t resting.

“I was happy to play a tiny part with getting the squadron up and running,” he said. “But now my long-term goal is to start a flying squadron here in Page.”

This is a development that Hammit feels would benefit the area in many ways. 

“Once we’re up and running, we’ll have a chance to have our very own Civil Air Patrol plane stationed here,” explained Hammit. “The Civil Air Patrol is all about cadet programs, aerospace education and emergency services like search and rescue. The major reason to have pilots and planes stationed here is to quickly help locate airplanes or people lost on the lake, in the Grand Canyon and on the Navajo Nation.”

Who was Bahe Ketchum?

Bahe Ketchum was a U.S. Marine who helped successfully craft the Navajo language into military code, a strategy that aided the Allies in pivotal battles and contributed to victory over the Axis powers in 1945. He was what later became known as a Code Talker.

Code Talkers translated English messages into Native American languages, such as Navajo, without writing them down. They would then transmit the messages to another Code Talker, who translated them into English for the intended recipients. This allowed important information to be communicated securely, without fear of interception.

In 2001, Ketchum received the Congressional Silver Medal for his duty as a Navajo Code Talker. He passed away on June 8, 2015, in Flagstaff, Arizona, at age 96.

To learn more about Code Talkers, visit the National Museum of the American Indian’s page on the subject at s.si.edu/2KfsrX8​    .

Navajo Civil Air Patrol

Civil Air Patrol National Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Smith and Civil Air Patrol Major Randy Hammit, who is also a WAPA high-voltage electrician, provided orientation flights to the Code Talker Bahe Ketchum Composite Squadron. ​

Last modified on September 12th, 2023